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California: April 22 deadline to register to vote in May 7 local elections

April 22 is the deadline to register to vote in local California elections taking place May 7. Voters in nine counties across the state are set to decide on local ballot measures at the special election.
Issues on the ballot include a residential care facility initiative for Solana Beach voters in San Diego County and a school district parcel transfer for district voters in San Mateo County. Inverness Public Utility District voters in Marin County will decide on an increase to the appropriations limit, and the remaining measures are parcel tax questions for district voters in Calaveras, Lake, Placer, Plumas, San Joaquin, and Santa Clara counties. Voters may visit their county elections websites for more information on voting and voter registration.

President Donald Trump issues second veto of his presidency

President Donald Trump (R) vetoed a Congressional resolution directing the removal of U.S. troops from Yemen Tuesday. It was his second veto since taking office.
The measure, which had been proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), passed 54-46 in the Senate, with seven Republicans joining Democrats to vote in favor. It passed the House 247-175 with 16 Republicans in favor. It would require 67 votes in the Senate and 290 in the House to override the President’s veto.
This marked the second veto of Trump’s presidency. The first was issued on March 15, 2019, of a resolution overriding his declaration of a national emergency on the border with Mexico.
At this point in their first terms, both Barack Obama (D) and Bill Clinton (D) had issued two vetoes. George H.W. Bush (R) had issued 20 vetoes while Ronald Reagan (R) had issued 16. George W. Bush (R) did not issue any vetoes until his second term.
Barack Obama (D) and George W. Bush (R) each issued 12 vetoes over the course of their two terms—the least of any president since World War II. The record for number of vetoes issued is 635, held by Franklin D. Roosevelt (D).
In U.S. history, 2,576 vetoes have been issued and 111 of those have been overridden by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress. Seven presidents issued no vetoes during their time in office. The most recent was James Garfield (R), who served until his assassination in 1881.

North Dakota voters will decide in 2020 whether the state legislature should get a second look at voter-approved constitutional amendments

The North Dakota state legislature referred a 2020 constitutional amendment to voters that would require future citizen-initiated constitutional amendments approved by voters to be submitted to the legislature at the next legislative session for the their approval or rejection. If the legislature approves an initiated constitutional amendment by a simple majority vote, it would be enacted. If the legislature rejects the constitutional amendment, it would be placed on the ballot again at the next statewide election and would become effective if approved by voters a second time. Currently, citizen-initiated constitutional amendments become effective in North Dakota once they are approved by voters at a statewide election.
The amendment was sponsored by Senators David Hogue (R-38), Dick Dever (R-32), and Gary Lee (R-22); and Representatives Ben Koppelman (R-16), Mike Nathe (R-30), and Scott Louser (R-5). Chief sponsor David Hogue said, “This is an opportunity to let the people decide how they wish to govern themselves.” Democratic Senator Tim Mathern, who opposed the measure, said lawmakers shouldn’t “impede the rights of the people.”
The measure passed in the legislature with all Democrats voting in opposition. In the House, 63 Republicans voted yes and 15 Republicans joined all 15 Democrats in voting no. In the Senate, 31 Republicans voted yes and five Republicans joined all 10 Democrats in voting no.
Currently, Nevada is the only state requiring voter approval of initiated constitutional amendments at two statewide elections before it they are enacted. In Nevada, however, there is no legislative involvement in between the elections.
Also on North Dakota’s 2020 ballot is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that would increase the membership of the State Board of Higher Education from eight to 15; increase members’ term length from four years to six; and prohibit state employees, officials, legislators, from being members. Between 1996 and 2018, an average of six measures appeared on the ballot in North Dakota during even-numbered election years. Between 1996 and 2018, about 56 percent (40 of 71) of the total number of measures that appeared on statewide ballots were approved, and about 44 percent (31 of 71) were defeated.
North Dakota allows citizen initiatives in the form of initiated state statutes, initiated constitutional amendments, and veto referendums. In North Dakota, petitioners may only circulate a petition for one year following the secretary of state’s initial approval. The completed petition must be submitted at least 120 days prior to the election. Supporters must submit 26,904 valid signatures by July 6, 2020, in order to qualify initiated constitutional amendments for the 2020 ballot, and 13,452 signatures are required to qualify initiated state statutes and veto referendums.
As of April 16, 2019, 22 statewide ballot measures had been certified for the 2020 ballot in 11 states.

North Carolina governor taps two for state court of appeals

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) appointed Reuben Young and Christopher Brook to fill two vacancies on the 15-member state Court of Appeals. Young and Brook are both registered with the Democratic Party.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court in North Carolina. The court has 15 judges who hear cases in panels of three. Judges are selected in partisan elections to serve eight-year terms. These elections were nonpartisan from 2004 until a law passed in 2016 made them partisan again, beginning in 2018.
Of the 15 judges, the breakdown of partisanship is as follows after the new appointments:
  • Appointed by Democratic governor: 5
  • Appointed by Republican governor: 2
  • Elected Democrats: 3
  • Elected Republicans: 5
Thus, the overall balance on the Court of Appeals following these appointments is 8-7 with eight judges having been either elected as Democrats or appointed by a Democratic governor.
The justices already on the court prior to Gov. Cooper’s appointments are:
  • Linda McGee – Initially appointed by Gov. Jim Hunt (D)
  • Wanda Bryant – Initially appointed by Gov. Mike Easley (D)
  • John Arrowood – Initially appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper (D)
  • Richard Dietz – Initially appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory (R)
  • Valerie Johnson Zachary – Initially appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory (R)
  • Donna Stroud – Elected (R)
  • Hunter Murphy – Elected (R)
  • John Marsh Tyson – Elected (R)
  • Chris Dillon – Elected (R)
  • Phil Berger, Jr. – Elected (R)
  • Lucy Inman – Elected (D)
  • Tony Hampson – Elected (D)
  • Allegra Collins – Elected (D)
Young and Brook must run for election in 2020 to remain on the bench. Bryant, McGee, and Dillon are also up for election in 2020.
Young was the chief deputy secretary for adult corrections and juvenile justice from 2017 to 2019. Before that, he was a special superior court judge for the North Carolina Superior Courts from 2012 to 2017. Gov. Bev Perdue (D) appointed him to that position on December 31, 2012. Young also worked for the state’s Department of Justice and for Gov. Mike Easley as chief legal counsel. He received his undergraduate degree from Howard University and his J.D. from the North Carolina Central University School of Law.
Brook was the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina from 2012 to 2019. He worked as an attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice from 2008 to 2012. From 2005 to 2008, Brook was an attorney in private practice. He received his undergraduate degree and J.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While in law school, Brook was a legal intern at the UNC Center for Civil Rights, director of the Carolina Law Pro Bono Program, and managing editor of the North Carolina Journal of International Law and Commercial Regulation.

Connecticut holds sixth state legislative special election in 2019

On Tuesday, Tammy Exum (D) defeated Robert Margolis (R) to win the vacant District 19 seat in the Connecticut House of Representatives. She won with 64.6% of the vote, according to the unofficial election night tally. No primary was held in the race – both Exum and Margolis were both nominated by their respective political party committees in early March.
This was Connecticut’s sixth special state legislative election held so far in 2019; three state Senate and two state House seats were up for special election on February 26. All five of those races were caused by Democratic officeholders resigning to take positions in Gov. Ned Lamont’s (D) administration. The state House’s District 19 seat was vacated by Derek Slap (D) after he won the Connecticut State Senate’s District 5 special election earlier this year.
All six of the state legislative seats up for special election so far previously had Democratic officeholders; Republicans won control of two of those seats on February 26. A seventh position, District 130 in the state House, is up for special election on May 7. It was vacated by Ezequiel Santiago (D), who died on March 15, 2019.
Following the special election, the Connecticut House of Representatives has 90 Democrats, 60 Republicans, and one vacancy. A majority in the chamber requires 76 seats. Connecticut has a Democratic trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
As of April, 52 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 20 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

April’s edition of the State Ballot Measure Monthly

This edition of the State Ballot Measure Monthly covers certifications from March 16 through April 15 and takes a look at Ballotpedia’s analysis of states requiring legislative approval in two sessions to refer constitutional amendments.
  • Ballotpedia’s analysis shows that state legislatures in states with a two-session vote requirement refer fewer constitutional amendments to the ballot.
  • One statewide ballot measure was certified for the 2019 ballot in Kansas, bringing the 2019 total to two in two states.
  • Seven ballot measures were certified for the 2020 ballot in Arkansas, Montana, Nevada, and North Dakota, bringing the 2020 total to 21 in 11 states.
  • All of the new measures were legislative referrals. Seven are constitutional amendments, and one is a state statute in Montana concerning local control over concealed-carry laws designed to only go on the ballot if Governor Steve Bullock (D) vetoes an identical bill.
  • The seven amendments concern term limits, the census and redistricting, citizen initiative and legislative referral requirements, and the governance of higher education.

Three state executives ineligible to run for re-election in 2019 due to term limits

Ten of the 23 state executive positions up for election in 2019 are subject to term limits. That includes all seven of Kentucky’s state executive offices on the ballot, as well as Louisiana’s governorship and Mississippi’s governorship and lieutenant governorship.
Of the 10 positions subject to term limits, three are held by incumbents who are prevented from running for re-election in 2019 due to being term-limited. These incumbents are Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R), and Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves (R). All three officials were first elected in 2011 and re-elected in 2015. Reeves is running for governor in the Republican primary on August 6, 2019. Neither Grimes nor Bryant have announced future plans in politics.
Kentucky and Mississippi are both Republican trifectas. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
A total of 37 states have laws limiting the number of terms state executive officials can serve. In 2018, 131 of the 303 state executive positions on the ballot were subject to term limits, and 49 state executive officials were ineligible to run for re-election.
This included the following two Democratic and 11 Republican governors: Jerry Brown (D-CA), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Rick Scott (R-FL), Nathan Deal (R-GA), Paul LePage (R-ME), Rick Snyder (R-MI), Brian Sandoval (R-NV), Susana Martinez (R-NM), John Kasich (R-OH), Mary Fallin (R-OK), Dennis Daugaard (R-SD), Bill Haslam (R-TN), and Matt Mead (R-WY). Four of those 13 offices changed party hands and were won by Democrats. Those open-seat winners were Janet Mills (D) in Maine, Gretchen Whitmer (D) in Michigan, Steve Sisolak (D) in Nevada, and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) in New Mexico.

Ohio governor signs bill prohibiting abortion after fetal heartbeat is detected

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed a bill into law on April 11 which bans abortions after a doctor is able to detect a fetal heartbeat-usually at about six weeks into a pregnancy. The law includes exceptions if the life of the woman is at risk, but not in cases of incest or rape. It also mandates jail time and a $20,000 fine from the State Medical Board of Ohio for physicians who violate the law.
As of March 2019, a total of 43 states prohibited abortions beginning at specific stages of pregnancy. Of these 43 states, 17 prohibited abortions beginning at the stage of fetal viability, defined in _Roe v. Wade_ as the point at which a fetus is “potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid.” Fourteen states prohibited abortions beginning at 20 weeks post-fertilization.

Maine special election filing deadline coming on April 18

Political parties in Maine have until April 18, 2019, to submit candidate nominations to the secretary of state for the special election in District 45 of the state House of Representatives. The special election will be held on June 11.
The special election became necessary after Dale Denno (D) resigned his seat on March 27, 2019, for health reasons. He had held the seat since 2016 and was re-elected in 2018 with 65% of the vote. The winner of the special election will finish the remainder of Denno’s term, which ends in December 2020.
In 2019, there have been 52 state legislative special elections scheduled or held so far in 20 states. So far, six partisan flips have occurred in 2019—four Republican wins, one Democratic win, and one independent win. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) will have the chance to fill two state supreme court seats

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) will have the chance to appoint two new justices to the nine-member state supreme court. Justice Patrick Wyrick vacated his seat on April 10, 2019, when he was nominated to serve on the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. Justice John Reif announced in March that he would retire on April 30, 2019.
Under Oklahoma state law, the governor appoints a justice to the court based on a list of names submitted by the Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission.
The nominations will be Stitt’s first two appointments to the court and will immediately shift the balance of the court from a 6-3 majority of justices appointed by Democratic governors to a 5-4 majority of justices appointed by Democratic governors.
Stitt’s appointments will serve until the next general election in 2020. They will then be on the ballot for retention with current justices Tom Colbert (appointed by a Democrat) and Richard Darby (appointed by a Republican) in a set of elections that could further change the makeup of the court.
The court’s makeup before the two vacancies was:
  • John Reif (retiring) – appointed by Gov. Brad Henry (D)
  • Tom Colbert – appointed by Gov. Brad Henry (D)
  • James Edmondson – appointed by Gov. Brad Henry (D)
  • Noma Gurich – appointed by Gov. Brad Henry (D)
  • Douglas Combs – appointed by Gov. Brad Henry (D)
  • Yvonne Kauger – appointed by Gov. George Nigh (D)
  • James Winchester – appointed by Gov. Frank Keating (R)
  • Patrick Wyrick (vacant) – appointed by Gov. Mary Fallin (R)
  • Richard Darby – appointed by Gov. Mary Fallin (R)
Justices on the court represent single judicial districts and serve six-year terms. The appointed justice must come from the appropriate supreme court judicial district. If the governor does not appoint a replacement within 60 days, the chief justice is responsible for selecting a successor.
The Oklahoma Supreme court is one of two courts of last resort in Oklahoma. The supreme court is the court of last resort for civil matters and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decides all criminal matters. Texas also has two courts of last resort. A court of last resort is the highest judicial body within a jurisdiction’s court system.
The Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission consists of 15 members: six lawyers elected by the Oklahoma Bar Association, six non-lawyers appointed by the governor, and three additional non-lawyers, who serve as at-large members. The state Senate president pro tempore and the state House speaker each choose one at-large member. A majority of commission members selects the third at-large member. Lawyers and non-lawyers serve six-year staggered terms. The at-large members serve for two years.